All subordinate civil courts of the city remained “functionless” on Monday, following a ceasework by the lawyers, protesting an Ordinance to increase the rates of stamp papers and court fees.
The lawyers of Alipore, Sealdah, city civil and small causes courts have threatened to go on an indefinite movement against the decision till the government rolls back its hike order.
Thousands of litigants were present in the courts on Monday but their cases could not be heard due to the absence of the lawyers, who were confident that the government would have to withdraw its fees-hike Ordinance.
Fearing a crisis, the State Bar Council has convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday, which secretaries and presidents of all Bar Associations of the city, including the high court, have been asked to attend.
An executive committee member of the council said: “The situation is gradually spinning out of our control. The lawyers of the city, as well as the state, are furious over the exorbitant increase in court fees. They are pressuring us to call an indefinite strike throughout the state.”
Saradindu Biswas, former chairman of the council, said according to a Supreme Court decision, the lawyers do not have the right to call a strike.
“But this time, the situation is grave. We are not in a position to prevent our members from boycotting the courts.”
Biswas said information had reached the council office that the lawyers’ discontent was spreading outside the city. Lawyers of the district courts were asking the council to take action against the government decision.
Sources said state judicial minister N. N. Adhikari had contacted some senior members of the council and requested them to maintain silence on the issue. The minister has reportedly said that the government had enhanced the court fees to realise the “huge expenditure” incurred by the judiciary.
Earlier, just after the publication of the report in various newspapers, the State Bar Council and several lawyers’ associations, except the CPM-affiliated Democratic Lawyers’ Association (DLA), had requested chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to withdraw the order on a court fee hike.
In a letter dated November 7, chairman of the executive committee of the council Uttam Majumder had said that common litigants of the state would not have the right to approach the judiciary if the court fees were increased by five times the present rate.
The Pradesh Congress Lawyers’ Cell handed over a memorandum to the judicial minister during the day, threatening a statewide movement if their demand for withdrawing the Ordinance was not met within 48 hours.